#44 Virginia Tech Baseball 2014 Preview

Virginia Tech Hokies

Overall Rank: #44
Conference Rank: #8 ACC
#44 Virginia Tech Baseball 2014 Preview
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Virginia Tech is coming off a successful 2013 season, where they went 40-22, finished third in the ACC Coastal Division, and hosted a regional in the NCAA tournament.  The Hokies took a hit in last year’s MLB Draft, as six players were drafted and signed professional contracts, led by Chad Pinder, who was picked 71st overall by the Oakland Athletics.  Patrick Mason takes over as the head coach for the Hokies program after Pete Hughes left to take the head job at Oklahoma.  Mason has been the Associate Head Coach at Virginia Tech since the 2011 season and will look to guide the Hokies back to a regional in his first year.

2013: 40-22, 15-14
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Patrick Mason

Field Players:
Mark Zagunis leads the returning field players.  The junior hit .341 last season and provides versatility to the Hokies lineup.  Primarily a catcher, he also played in right and left field last season.  Zagunis will see the majority of his playing time behind the plate this season after Chad Morgan, the catcher last season, departed.  With the exception of Pinder, the key contributors return to the Hokies infield.  A trio of juniors leads the group.  Shortstop Alex Perez returns as one of three players to start all 62 games last season and Sean Keselica is back after hitting .307 in 57 games.  Brendon Hayden was a utility infielder last season, playing first, second, and third base, and appearing in all 62 games.  Ryan Burns and Matt Dauby also return after starting a combined 32 games in the infield last season.  The outfield suffered heavy losses after the 2013 campaign.  Redshirt junior Kyle Wernicki joins Zagunis as the only players to see quality playing time in the outfield.  Wernicki started 31 games last season, with the majority of those coming in center field, and earned himself a spot on the 2013 NCAA Blacksburg Regional All-Tournament Team at the end of the season.  

The pitching staff will be looking for players to step up and increase production this season after losing four players who signed contracts with MLB organizations, as well as their closer.  Senior Brad Markey headlines the returning starters.  He is the lone returning member of the starting pitching rotation, starting a team-high 15 games last year. Tanner McIntyre, the only other senior on the roster, is also back after spending the last two seasons in the bullpen.  A starter at Butte College before coming to Virginia Tech, McIntyre has posted a perfect 10-0 record during his two seasons in Blacksburg, making four starts last season.  Opponents only hit .214 against him in 26 innings last year.  Two of the Hokies infielders, Sean Keselica and Brendon Hayden, also double as pitchers.  Keselica pitched 31.2 innings last season, starting four games, while Hayden held opponents to a .216 batting average in 21 innings.  The only other pitchers with extended game experience are sophomores Luis Collazo and Sean Kennedy, who pitched 17 and 11.2 innings apiece, respectively, last season.

Who to Watch:
Phil Sciretta is coming off a big performance in the Hokie’s Fall World Series, where he was named the MVP.  The sophomore hit .545 with five runs scored and three RBI’s and threw four innings, allowing only one run.  Sciretta saw limited playing time last season, playing in nine games and getting only seven at-bats.  He spent time during the fall playing in the outfield and could be key in replacing the production lost from last year’s outfield, as well as on the mound.  In addition to Sciretta, the freshman class will be very important for the Hokies this season. With all the losses off last year’s team, there are many opportunities for the freshman to play prominent roles.  

Final Projection:
The Hokies start off the season with a schedule that is quite winnable.  Although they do have to play LSU in Baton Rouge once, the majority of the early games are against teams from non-power conferences, allowing the Hokies to get their lineup worked out.  Playing in a tough ACC conference, early wins are needed to ensure a spot in the NCAA tournament.  If some of the new players can step up and help the returning players replace the lost production, Virginia Tech should find themselves playing in a NCAA Regional at the end of the season.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Mark Zagunis, C, 232
Hits: Mark Zagunis, C, 79
Home Runs: Mark Zagunis, C, 9
RBIs: Mark Zagunis, C, 51
Runs: Mark Zagunis, C, 62
Stolen Bases: Mark Zagunis, C, 19

Wins: Brad Markey, P, 5
Innings Pitched: Brad Markey, P, 100.1
Strikeouts: Brad Markey, P, 75
Saves: Brendon Hayden, IF/P, 1

Madness 2014 MLB Draft Rankings:
#139 Mark Zagunis


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